Archive for the ‘Richard Muller’ Category

Inherent Paradox

May 6, 2011

The inherent paradox of the use of finite forms to discuss an infinite truth, of the presentation of concepts relating to an incomprehensible Being and the unfathomable mystery of his relation to the world and its creatures, hovers in the background of all theological statement.

Richard Muller, PRRD, 1:86

See also here.

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“The Son is eternally begotten of the Father”

December 19, 2008

So reads WCF 2:3.  Again part of Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 10 reads “It is proper to the Father to beget the Son, and to the Son to be begotten of the Father”.  It would therefore appear that the doctrine of the eternal begottenness, or eternal generation, of the Son would be beyond controversy in Reformed theology.  However, this one settled doctrine is now being questioned.  The argument goes that to speak of the Son as “eternally begotten” of the Father is to deny his essential Divinity and to construct an inherently subordinationist view of the Trinity.  In working through Richard Muller’s fine Christ and the Decree he explains how some of the Reformed held together the Doctrine of the Son’s essential Divinity with his eternal generation by the Father.

For instance Muller notes that Jerome Zanchi made “the important systematic distinctions between the Son in his essential Godhead, [and] the Son as person in relation to the other persons of the Trinity…”   Bear that in mind in reading the following quote from Zanchi:

The Father alone is autotheon, in this sense, since he alone is from himself, and has nothing from another: the Son  however, both in what he is and in what he has, has all from the Father, and is God of God: because of which all things that he receives he bears to the Father: all this we easily allow.  But in turn this too is confessed, Christ is also autotheon in another sense: for surely insofar as he is God according to essence … which essence although it is communicated, is entirely without antecedent principle: and so in the Son it is from itself (seipsa) just as it is in the Father.

Muller can summarise Zanchi as follows, “even though the Son receives all from the Father insofar as he is generated or begotten, this Sonship implies no subordination: the Son is not a dependent essence.” 

Muller also outlines Ursinus’ views on the generation of the Son.  He comments: “Ursinus makes the distinction between essence and person, arguing the aseity [self existence] of the Son considered as to his essence but not as to his person.  For it is not as if a divine essence is generated … [Neverthless] The Son is begotten out of the Father, and, as begotten, receives the divine essence by communication…”  Muller quotes Ursinus’ words, “the essence, thus, of the three persons, because it is one and the same, exists of itself: even so the person of the Father is not from another or proceeding, but from itself: but the persons of the Son and the Holy Spirit are not from themselves: the Son, indeed, is from the Father, the Holy Spirit from the Father and from the Son, the essence of the Father being communicated to them.”

Again Muller shows Perkins held to a similar mode of thought sumamrising his views as follows: “insofar as he is the Son, he does not exist from himself but is begotten from the Father; yet insofar as he is God, the second person of the Trinity exists of himself…”

I hope that sheds some light on how we can confess that “the Son is eternally begotten of the Father” without making him somehow less than fully Divine.  I close this post with some word’s from A.A. Hodge on the spirit in which to meditate on these matters:

This we must do with bowed heads and reverent hearts, for the ground on which we stand is holy.  The subject is transcendently sacred: it is the infinitely righteous and majestic God.

Musculus on the Unity of the Covenant of Grace

November 28, 2008

Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to PerkinsI’ve been slowly working through Richard Muller’s Christ and the DecreeIt is always humbling reading Muller as the range and grasp of his historical understanding is monumental.  If you want to know about Christology and Predestination in reformed thought from Calvin to Perkins then you need to read this book.  However by way of warning, to understand Muller a substantial dictionary is required (think sesquipedalian) as well as a copy of his Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms.

Anyway as part of reading this book I came across this helpful quote on the unity of the covenant of grace from the little known (today) reformed theologian Wolfgang Musculus (enjoy!):

There are three principal times which embrace the whole world: the first which was before the law, the second under the law, the third after the law.  Then also there are three designated persons, the leaders of the separate times, Abraham, Moses, Christ.  And each time had its own dispensation [administration] of religion, which is called in scripture berith, i.e., pactum or foedus.  It does not follow, however, that there are three substantially distinct covenants (foedera) as far as the salvation of mankind is concerned.  There is one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. There is one Lord, saviour and redeemer of all, Christ Jesus; one Holy Spirit; one kingdom of the elect and blessed prepared since the beginning of the world; one grace of heavenly calling; one faith; one hope of life eternal; there is one body, one people, and one universal church of the elect properly so-called, which from the beginning of the world to its end embraces all the elect and the faithful: and (thus) there is a single and perpetual covenant of God with the elect in all things firm and sure, and there is one ongoing worship (pietas) and justification of believers.  Truly, the dispensation of this one covenant, grace, faith, church, religion and worship is not one and perpetual: rather it has been instituted in several ways and according to the quality of the times by the counsel of divine wisdom.
Wolfgang Musculus, Loci Communes, Chapter 14, p133b